Fireworks illuminate the sky in small towns and big cities across America to celebrate the Fourth of July. Here are our selections for the top 5 July 4th fireworks displays around the country.
New York, New York
Fireworks light up the Big Apple's West Side during the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks display. The country's largest pyrotechnic show kicks off at 9:20 p.m. from 6 barges lining the Hudson River. These barges stretch for 1.5 miles between 24th and 50th Streets. The dazzling lights display, featuring over 40,000 fireworks shells soaring up to 1,000 feet in the air, is rivaled only by the accompanying orchestration by the New York Pops Orchestra and Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Patriotic fans ooh and aah over the annual showstopper known as Macy's Golden Mile: It's a mile-long shower of golden sparks that makes the plunge to the Hudson River and also features mysterious Ghost Shells that flash into the air and quickly reappear in a new color.
Best viewing spots: You'll need to arrive a few hours early (people start lining up before 4 p.m.) to claim a spot along the West Side Highway below 59th Street. There are access points from 11th Avenue at the following cross streets: 24th Street, 26th-30th Streets, 34th Street, 40th-44th Streets, 47th-52nd Streets and 54th-57th Streets. If you prefer to stick to the Jersey side of the river, prime viewing spots are also available along the waterfront in Weehawken and Hoboken.
The Boston Pops Concert Fireworks Spectacular brings the 1812 Overture, and about 500,000 visitors, to the Charles River for the annual July 4th celebration. Spectators head to the Esplanade alongside the Charles River and stand in line to secure some blanket space in the Oval, which generally fills to capacity by 2 p.m. The conductor kicks things off at 8 p.m. with the National Anthem and a flyover before the famed Boston Pops breaks into the 1812 Overture at 9:30. At 10:30, the dazzling fireworks display lights up the sky. If you're in town for the fireworks, extend the fun with events sponsored by Harborfest, including concerts, children's activities and a seafood feast at Chowderfest.
Best viewing spots: If you don't want to jostle the crowds or you miss out on the necessary wristband, you can still view the fireworks from spots around town. Many locals argue that the best viewing spot is across the river in Cambridge, or even from a canoe or kayak in the Charles, a safe distance away from the fireworks barges.
Celebrate America's birthday in its birthplace of Philadelphia, surrounded by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The Wawa Welcome America festival is 11 days of city celebrations with the Taste of Philadelphia, outdoor films, and all-you-can-eat ice-cream bonanzas. On July 4th, the patriotic scene is set with a parade of Army bands and bugle corps weaving through the historic neighborhood along 5th and Chestnut Streets. The Mummers, the city's legendary parade mainstays dressed in outrageous costumes, join in the parade, too. The Party on the Parkway kicks off at noon with food and fun on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Billed as the largest free concert in the country, the Life, Liberty and You Concert starts at 8 and transitions into the fireworks at 10:30 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Best viewing spots: If you forgo the concert but still want to see the fireworks, bring a blanket to Boathouse Row or Schuylkill River Park.
Celebrate Independence Day in our nation's capital during July 4th festivities in Washington, DC. Start the day with bands and floats at the Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue or celebrating America's past at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. A Capitol Fourth Concert is a star-studded concert event on the West Lawn of the US Capitol Building. Admission is free, but it will take stamina to get a spot after the gates open at 3 p.m. The concert begins at 8 and features television and movie stars, rock legends and queens and kings of country music. For the grand finale, the US Army Herald Trumpets play the 1812 Overture with live cannon fire and additional music by the US Army Ceremonial Band, the US Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and other military bands. At around 9:15, fireworks launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool illuminate the sky behind the Washington Monument.
Best viewing spots: Join the masses on the National Mall or head to the streets by the US Capitol building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial or the FDR Memorial. If you really want to avoid the crowds, book a boat cruise on the Potomac River.
Never one to disappoint, Houston lives up to the reputation that everything is bigger in Texas with the largest land-based fireworks show in the US. The Freedom Over Texas event has live country music followed by an impressive show of dazzling fireworks lighting up the sky at Eleanor Tinsley Park. Before the show, check out the military artifacts and vehicles at KBR Liberty Park or visit the kid's zone for music, magic and stories. The show incorporates patriotic favorites with modern rock 'n' roll for an explosive and spirited celebration. The fireworks show is set off from Buffalo Bayou in the park, just west of Sabine Bridge and the downtown area.
Best viewing spots: The best views of the fireworks are from within the park.